The stress, fear and uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic can wear anyone down, but children and teens may have an especially tough time coping emotionally. Children and adolescents that were coping with mental health issues prior to COVID-19 are likely to have increased symptomatology.
Home confinement has restricted children from their normal lifestyles, and this influences their mental and physical health. Children rely on their peers to converse, be entertained, play sports, socialize, distract, grow, and learn and to be included. COVID-19 took this away without warning. What once were their coping skills and outlets are now gone.
Children and teens are not used to being with their nuclear family 24/7. Parents went to work, children went to school, followed by after school programs or sports, and at dinner time either the family gathered at the table or went out to eat and spent time together. This routine provided for change in environment, structure, socializing, and family time in increments that were counted on for balance and outlets of emotion and energy.
Children and teens cannot grasp the concept of the pandemic like adults do and to lose life as they know it is hard to make sense of. Isolation and social distancing have eliminated the things we had taken for granted. “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” explains so much. Children and teens did not realize how the normal day to day activities and interactions played a role in how they feel. But now, with no outlets, the feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety, anger, and fear can be even more overwhelming. The first and most important step is to talk to and observe your child for changes in their day to day functioning.
You may not hear these feelings directly from your children, so it is important to take note of the following symptoms:
- Isolating more than normal
- Heightened irritability
- Sleeping and eating pattern changes
- Loss of interest in what was interesting before
- Increased emotional dysregulation or moodiness
These are only a few signs that may indicate your child may benefit from mental health support. With the pandemic, you may not realize that help is still available. The option of teletherapy, as well as in the office sessions, can help children get the therapy they need.